Interview With Cambridge – 2011

Here’s a wee bit of an interview with Jesse from Cambridge. Rebel Time Records is just so proud to have released Cambridge’s latest platter “This Is Not A Victory,” which MRR summed up nicely as “gloriously melodic defiance.” Great band, great people, great politics…

Where did the name Cambridge come from? The city? The Articles of Faith song?

I have never heard the Articles of Faith song, so that can’t be it. Actually, it comes from a time and place where me and James and bunch of others lived in a big house on Cambridge St. in Burnaby. It was always just known as the Cambridge house. Then we started this band in my bedroom and it was always like “let’s go back to the Cambridge house and jam” or something like that. The name just kind of fit. It was that or Two Minute Hate. We chose Cambridge.

This Is Not A Victory is the title of the new album and the cover appears to be Canadian soldiers carrying a flag-draped coffin. What are you trying to get across with this image and title?

The title (and image, really) refers to my reaction towards the incredibly patriotic and nationalistic overload that was experienced and broadcast to us during the Olympics in Vancouver. It was like everyone just got caught up in a fever that made them think that it was morally reprehensible to question the sheer awesomeness of being Canadian. We could do no wrong. We’re the best country in the world! Any talk of the issues that were facing us as a country before the games (like the Afghan Torture scandal, the Tarsands, HST, Harper’s Prorogue, etc) were put out to rest, so we could see how amazing we were on TV. Then in the following week, the bad news returned to television screens. One particularly depressing news day, in between being told of several Canadian soldiers dying, Banks ripping people of, and people losing jobs and what have you, we were told to celebrate another victory for the glory of Canada; they found Sydney Crosby’s Hockey stick. I didn’t think the families of those dying soldiers felt very victorious for Canada that day.

How would you describe the Cambridge sound for those who haven’t heard you before?

Fast, melodic Socially/Politically driven punk rock, that doesn’t have to be taken too seriously. We sing about things that matter to us, and the world around us and we play as hard as we can till we collapse, but we are not trying to be depressing or inclusive. We like to have fun.

In a chat we had, you said that the new album, lyrically, takes on “political douchebaggery.” Can you expand on that? What kind of douchebaggery are we talking about here?

There is just so much bullshit that happens on a daily basis in our country (and others) that gets overlooked or completely ignored or bumped off headlines, that it’s easy to just give up and become complacent. Real news gets run over by celebrity gossip and our news outlets are becoming more and more opinion based. So all we get is little sound bites and then it’s on to something new, without being able to really absorb what the fuck is happening. BC is a prime example. Our “leaders” don’t really give two shits about anything that doesn’t make money, and they know that there is nothing that we can do about it. Be it MLA’s unanimously voting themselves pay raises, defending outrageous expense accounts or the absolutely brutal implementation of the HST this summer, or refusing to raise minimum wage (We have the lowest in Canada), it doesn’t matter. They know that nothing can change until election time, and The Liberals are on their 3rd term. Recall legislation is the bureaucratic equivalent of walking to China. They can shit down our throats and we get fined for choking. These things come and we get angry and frustrated, but in the end, they always win. Ask your local BC ambulance responder. Or teacher.

I know we have it a lot better here than a lot of the world, so I don’t complain too much, but that’s what I mean by “Political Douchbaggery.” They are not evil, just douches. And there is really not much we can do about it, so I write songs and maybe an issue will survive longer.

I love the song “10,000 Shares.”  Amazing tune. However, I’m not sure what the song is about. The lyrics talk about torching barracks and  a village betraying someone for 10,000 company shares…what’s the story?

I’m glad you like it, it’s my favorite too. It’s basically a fictitious tale set in the past about some Hudson’s Bay-like company moving into an area with the intent of colonizing and enterprising the locals, and the people’s response to their presence. It was meant to also be allegorical to a modern day setting of some war torn country that would share the same views about “invaders occupying our homes.”

The idea for the song came from an offhand comment someone made once in my hometown, when Wal-Mart was building one of the largest stores in Canada there. Basically, it was like “fuckin’ invaders! Let’s burn it down”..or something like that. So, the inspiration came from that and I wrote the song. Then, months later, after the song was long done, in a bit of serendipitous irony, I found out that there was a greasy backroom deal between the city council, property owners and WM, to acquire the land for next to nothing. While the people fought them in public domains, the decision was made behind closed doors and nothing could be done. What we stood for dies with us.

I was chatting with Patty from Class War Kids/Brutal Youth and he said that the line “my medals are achievements in death,” from the song Kubark, is brilliant. Where did that line, or that song, come from?

That line came from the dark recesses of my mind, but the song was inspired from the documentary “Taxi To The Dark Side” which is all about how the word “torture” has been redefined to fit the demands of the people who practice it. The title “Kubark” refers to the first manual put out by the CIA in 1963 that elaborated and defined interrogation methods to be used.

You’ve just released your new album “This Is Not A Victory” on Rebel Time Records.What have Cambridge been up to prior to this and how’d you end up on RTR?

Well, we ended up on RTR because they saw an opportunity to exploit us for commercial gain. Ha. No, we have, for the entire life of our band, done things ourselves, but with this record I really felt like we needed a bit of help doing the things we are not very good at, like promo. I have a hard time letting go of creative control of my projects, but working with them was very co-operative and no real money or contracts were involved so that suits me. I really feel that co-op record deals are the way to go. You do it right, and hopefully everybody wins.

Cambridge did a  tour of Canada this past year…how did that go? Any interesting stories? Any cool bands we need to know about?

It went great. It was by far the most successful we have done, both in terms of shows, and in terms of not having to sell our shoes to pay for gas. People are really supportive with food and lodging and we still sell lots of merch and cd’s. I love proving people wrong when they say “cd’s don’t sell anymore” because it’s just not true, you just have to earn the sale. We make our albums really cheap to buy and we try to play every night like it’s our last and I think people respond to that. I feel really sorry for bands that still try to sell albums for $15-20, because no one wants to pay that much. But if the price of a record is the same a drink at a bar, it’s an easier equation to make.

As far as interesting stories go, Regina is a keeper. We stayed at this punk house, and I was having somewhat intelligent conversation with this guy who seemed nice enough, but then in the span of about 2 minutes went from calm, to repeatedly smashing a bottle over this girls head. It was a harsh scene. I’m glad I slept in the van that night. But really, every night on tour is an exciting story when compared to normal living. I still look back with amazement every time I think about how far you travel in a day, and how much ground you cover in this country.

Bands you should know about are Brutal Youth, End Program, Klein 96, Broadcast Zero, The Lucky Ones, Feast or Famine, The Weekend Kids, Fire Next Time…probably more, but I forget. Canada has a lot of great bands right now.

You’ve just released your second solo release. What’s the deal with your solo career? 

The solo stuff came about the last time we toured Canada in 2008 when we were gone for a month and a half. I came home and I just had so much momentum built up that it was seriously depressing me to stop. I came up with 10 songs in a matter of days, and I recorded them myself just to get the ideas down, but then the recordings turned out great, so I decided to actually release it and try playing some shows. Now, it has become a great outlet for me because I write a lot of songs and not all of them are good fits for Cambridge songs. Knowing I have both style to work with, I focus the more technical, angry and political songs towards Cambridge, and let the more personal, stripped down songs become solo songs. Plus, I love bluegrass so it lets me play around in that genre while still keeping the punk rock. I go crazy if I don’t get the release that comes from playing and singing as hard as I can. Playing in Cambridge is like therapy for me, it is a release that I can’t do without. But the solo stuff is a way for me to fill in some other blanks.

What’s in the future for Cambridge?

Well, writing new songs is really important to us to keep it fun and progressing. We are 4 songs into a new album already, and I got lots of other ideas. It’s kind of tough for me because I’m trying to set myself up to do music full time, so I wanna tour all the time, (full time if I could) but the rest of the guys have more serious jobs and commitments than I do. 2 guys had babies last year so the idea of everybody quitting jobs and touring full time is kind of out of the question, but 2-3 weeks at a time is certainly possible. The process of getting P2 Visas to tour the States is getting a little easier, and I definitely want to do that, because crossing legitimately makes way more sense to me than border jumping. Nobody wants to get a 5 year ban, especially because Eric has family down there. Also, I hope to go to Europe for 2-3 weeks in spring 2012.
So we are gonna play lots in BC and western Canada this summer, and keep on writing and making new music, because the bottom line for us is having fun and that’s what we enjoy.

Any last words?

I just wanna issue a blanket thank you to anyone and everyone who helped make This Is Not A Victory a success for us. I sometimes get discouraged with the state of popular music and it makes me very happy to know that people out there still like the style of music we play. It makes me want to work harder, and do better. So thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *